Separation of Church and State

Obama Chooses Anti-Gay Activist for White House Role

According to media reports today, the White House has invited anti-gay activist and retired NFL Coach Tony Dungy to join its Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Dungy actively campaigned for an anti-gay ballot initiative in Indiana that banned same-sex couples from being civilly married. "President Obama was given a mandate to bring people together," said Tanya Clay House, PFAW Director of Public Policy. "But his selection of Tony Dungy is extremely divisive. Dungy campaigned specifically to discriminate against a particular group of people, and he's been closely aligned with the far-right Indiana Family Institute."

Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Voucher Schemes

The Arizona Supreme Court today rejected publicly funded voucher schemes that send public money to religious and other private schools. PFAW and a group of allies filed suit against the state in 2006, pointing to clear language in the Arizona Constitution that forbids appropriating taxpayer money in aid of "private or sectarian schools." "The Arizona Constitution is very clear on this issue, and I'm pleased that the court recognized that," said Tanya Clay House, PFAW Director of Public Policy. "This is a victory for students, parents, taxpayers, and all those who value religious liberty, as guaranteed through the separation between church and state. Taxpayer money shouldn’t be going to pay for private or parochial schools."

Supreme Court Rules Religious Monuments to be Government Speech

The Supreme Court today ruled that religious monuments on government property constitute government speech in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum. PFAW Foundation President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: "I'm pleased that the Court today made clear that religious monuments like the one the Summum sought to erect are government speech. I'm especially glad the decision acknowledged that the establishment clause provides a limit on what government can use that speech to say. Government shouldn't favor one religion over another or favor any religion over no religion at all." PFAW Foundation filed an amicus brief in the case.

The 'Big Lie' Strategy: Religious Right Stokes False Fears of Religious Persecution

On February 5, 2009, the U.S. Senate took up an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to strip church-state protections from the stimulus bill. The amendment failed 43 to 54 after DeMint repeated the inflammatory claims he had been making all week and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) swiftly and effectively refuted them. The creation of a phony crisis that DeMint's amendment was supposed to solve is a case study of Religious Right leaders' strategic use of false alarms about threats to religious liberty &emdash; and of the willingness of right-wing media and elected officials to play along. Watch now, in the wake of the amendment’s defeat, for Religious Right leaders to use the vote as "evidence" that Democrats are hostile to people of faith and to try to undermine support from religious Americans for the new administration.

Obama Should Stick to Constitutional Principles on Faith Based Programs

President Obama today announced that he will create a White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, but did not use the same opportunity to rescind the Bush-administration policy making it legal for recipients of faith-based funding to discriminate in providing services. People For the American Way is disappointed by news reports indicated that he would ask the Justice Department to review the policy which allows those same organizations to discriminate in hiring.

Supreme Court Rejects Church-State Appeal

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal of a lower court decision which upheld the policy of the Fredericksburg, Virginia, City Council requiring that the official prayers recited at the beginning of its meetings be non-sectarian. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by a member of the City Council, Rev. Hashmel Turner, who claims that he has a constitutional right to offer a sectarian prayer as the Council's official opening prayer. The City Council and Mayor were represented in the case on a pro bono basis by Terence Rasmussen and Robert Rolfe of the law firm of Hunton & Williams and by attorneys with People For the American Way Foundation.

People For the American Way 'Profoundly Disappointed' that Rick Warren Will Give Invocation

People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert responded today to the news that Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama: "It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama. I'm sure that Warren's supporters will portray his selection as an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across traditional divides, but the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans."

A Student of Uncommon Courage: Matthew LaClair

When Matthew LaClair heard his popular high-school history teacher tell students that only Christians will go to heaven, and that evolution has no basis in science, he knew something was wrong. Unlike most 16-year-olds, he knew it was his duty to do something about it.

Religious Protection Laws in the United States

An historical timeline of state constitutional amendments intended to preserve church-separation, and an overview of recent attempts to revise or delete these protections.

McCain Uses NAACP Conference to Push Anti-Public Education Voucher Ploy

During his speech today at the NAACP’s annual convention, John McCain reiterated his support of taxpayer funded vouchers to send children to religious and other private schools. People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, "John McCain is trying to score points with his right wing base, and he’s doing it at the expense of children. It’s bad enough that these voucher schemes are designed to undermine the separation of church and state."

People For the American Way Encouraged by Obama Commitment to Apply Constitutional Principles to Partnerships with Faith-Based Groups

People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, Senator Obama’s speech on government partnerships with faith-based and grassroots social service groups included a clear commitment to constitutional principles, something that has been sorely lacking during the Bush administration. Sen. Obama stated clearly that his administration would not allow federal funds to support discrimination in providing services – or in hiring. In so doing, the Obama campaign is embracing civil rights protections that the Bush administration actively tried to undermine.

Dobson Uses Bible as Political Weapon

James Dobson accused Senator Barack Obama of distorting the Bible and of pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

People For the American Way Foundation Sues to Protect Church-State Separation

People For the American Way Foundation, along with a group of allies, today filed suit on behalf of six Florida voters to prevent two proposed state constitutional amendments from appearing on the November ballot. The proposed amendments would pave the way for sending public monies to religious and other private schools.

People For Delivers 11,000 Petitions To Cal State Chancellor

People For the American Way Foundation delivered more than 11,000 petitions to California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed. The petitions call for the university system to adopt a policy that accommodates employees who have religious or other objections to the state's "loyalty oath" by allowing them to sign the oath and attach an explanatory statement, the very same policy of the University of California.

Arizona Court of Appeals Rejects Voucher Schemes

The Arizona Court of Appeals today rejected publicly funded voucher schemes that send taxpayer money to religious and other private schools. People For the American Way, along with a group of allies, sued the state in 2006, pointing to clear language in the Arizona Constitution that forbids appropriating public money in aid of "private or sectarian schools."

David Barton: Propaganda Masquerading as History

In 1987, God reportedly told David Barton, a one-time science teacher at a fundamentalist Christian school that grew out of a church started by his own parents, that he was “to search the library and find the date that prayer had been prohibited in public schools [and] obtain a record of national SAT scores … spanning several decades.” Predictably, the result of Barton’s unscientific study was to find a “correlation” between the alleged banning of prayer and a decrease in SAT scores, as well as increases in everything from alcohol consumption to crimes rates across the nation.

The Patriot Pastors Electoral War Against the 'Hordes of Hell'

A new generation of Religious Right leaders is turning conservative churches into political machines for far-right Republican candidates with rhetoric that might make Pat Robertson blush. The new report by People For the American Way Foundation, NAACP, and the African American Ministers Leadership Council documents how high-level Republican officials in Ohio and elsewhere are embracing the self-proclaimed "Christocrats" and counting on a new wave of aggressive politics-from-the-pulpit to win elections.

Evolution and Creationism in Public Education

An In-depth Reading Of Public Opinion

Results of a comprehensive, national survey on the teaching of creationism in public schools.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools

The Good Book Taught Wrong: Bible History Classes in Florida Public Schools

This report details widespread, significant constitutional violations uncovered by People For the American Way Foundation in its year-long investigation into the teaching of “Bible History” classes in Florida’s public high schools. An examination of the written instructional materials provided by the school districts themselves found that the courses were taught from a Christian, generally Fundamentalist Protestant, perspective. Typically, the courses presented the Bible as a history textbook, assumed that students were Christian, and used the Bible to promote Christian faith formation.

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